A man packs his belongings into the back of a ute during the floods in Rockhampton.
A man packs his belongings into the back of a ute during the floods in Rockhampton.

Residents forced out

SOME people in Rockhampton's worst affected flood zones were ordered to leave their homes yesterday.

Residents in parts of Depot Hill, Kawana, Park Avenue and Berserker were the first to be told if they didn't agree to pack up and go, they would be moved by police.

Mayor Brad Carter said it was a tough decision, but one necessary to protect and preserve lives as the city makes its final preparations for a flood that could impact on 40% of houses.

“We are identifying people with special needs and those with medical conditions which place them at greatest risk in this flood,” he said.

“They are our first priority, followed by those people who will be most seriously affected by the water.”

He said the latest predictions were for 200 houses with water over their floorboards and up to 4000 with some level of inundation since the Fitzroy River was expected to surge above 9.4m.

Late yesterday afternoon it was at 8.3m.

There were reports yesterday of fights breaking out at city supermarkets over food as many people panicked (see story Page 10).

The good news is fresh supplies have made it to the city and the shops will be open for extended hours this weekend.

Acting Superintendent David Peff said officers would not hesitate to intervene if people refused to evacuate.

“We have the authority to forcibly remove people who don't want to go, but we implore people to comply with the request to leave.

“Safety is the biggest concern and people will be placing themselves and others at risk by staying in place.”

Rockhampton MP Robert Schwarten said he fully supported the decision, which was made yesterday morning by the disaster management group.

“Everybody now knows the risks of staying put and I am urging people to leave now, not to wait until they are told they have to go. We don't want last-minute evacuations because they are dangerous.”

Mr Schwarten appealed for Rockhampton people to open their doors to those in need and for the benefit of television news crews he made an appeal to those watching around the country.

“There is one message that is very clear. We need help. There are people who don't have any spare cash and these people will lose their possessions and appliances, so please donate to the Premier's Appeal.”

Experts expect Rockhampton Airport to close sometime this afternoon and the Bruce and Capricorn highways to be cut south of the city during the course of the weekend, probably tomorrow. While it was theoretically possible for the Bruce Highway to remain open to the north of the city at 9.4 metres, it was probable that link would also be cut at some point during the height of the flood, said Cr Carter.

But the disaster managers are confident residents will not go hungry during a period of isolation that could last 10 days or more.

Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters will be used to lift supplies in and there are a range of other options to keep essential foodstuffs moving.

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